If you are in Spain with your visa for studies and you have finished your course (or are about to do so), this article is for you. Becuase, probably, you’d like to start working now or modify your work permit, and in this article we will show you the 4 different ways available to do it.  So, whether you are studying for a master’s degree, university degree, language course, or any other type of training, what are the different options for a student in Spain to start working legally in the country? How exactly can you get a work permit in Spain with a student visa? Let’s find out.


Can you work in Spain with a student visa?


If you have already finished your studies, you will have to change to a work permit, something for which there are different options (as we will see below). However, if you are still a student, you should know that it is totally possible to work with your student visa for the duration of your studies.

Thus, after the most recent Spanish Immigration Law update, you can now work up to 30 hours per week (as long as your lecture hours do not overlap) and you can do so throughout Spain (with no geographical limitation).

But there’s more.

One of the great advantages that foreign students already enjoy when working is that they can do it automatically with their student visa, without having to go through any extra procedure (as it was necessary before).

All student cards issued after August 16, 2022 (the date on which the modification of the regulation came into force) already include the phrase “autoriza a trabajar” as an indication that the card itself is sufficient to perform these 30 hours.

In the cases in which the card was issued before the new regulation came into force, the student, in order to be able to work during his studies, must carry out the compatibility procedure.

Changing student visa to a work permit in Spain


What if I have already finished my studies (or I am about to do so) and I would like to stay in Spain for long run and work?

Then you will have to change your visa for studies into a work permit (what is called a student visa modification) or follow one of the other alternatives presented below (job search visa or internship residencey).

The most important thing is that, as a fundamental requirement to change from a study visa to a work permit, you must have successfully completed your studies (passing all the subjects and therefore presenting the certificate of achievement)

Let’s take a look at the 4 options to get a work permit as a student.


1. Get your initial work authorization


The first option to transition from student visa to work permit is the one that has been more used traditionally, and undoubtedly the one with the most advantages after the reform of the immigration regulations.

While in the past you had to wait 3 years in Spain with your visa for studies to be able to make this modification, it is no longer necessary.

Now you will be able to obtain the work permit as an employee (or self-employed worker) as soon as you finish your studies, regardless of their duration or type.

Thus, it is not necessary to consdier the shortage occupation list and make sure that the job is within it.

The job offer you receive (necessary to complete this procedure) can be in any sector, and does not necessarily have to be related to your education.

In this sense, you have two options to complete this student visa modification to regular work permit:


Work permit as an employee


This is the case in which you don’t want to start your own company but work for a company in the Spanish territory. In Spanish, this permit is called “por cuenta ajena”.

You will just need to get a job offer and you will be granted the permit to work. As we have just mentioned, as the situation of unemployment is not considered, the procedure is really simple and nearly every job position will work

Bear in mind that the competence work for permits is something that depends on the government of the autonomous community. This means that you won’t apply to the Immigration Office, but to the office that corresponds to your region. In the case that you are in Catalonia, for example, the corresponding institution will be the Generalitat. 

You will need to go to this specific office with the company that is offering you the job position and bring the relevant documentation. 

However, and as a main counterpart in comparison to the other work permit alternative that we will see in the following section (the highly qualified visa) here the waiting times when it comes to your applicaiton will be much longer, in a process that, at least, will last 3 months. 


Work permit as a self-employed worker: Opening your own company


It is also possible to get this initial authorization to start your own company, coming from a student visa. In Spanish, this type of permit is called “por cuenta propia”. And it can be both an S.L. or you working as an individual (autonomo)

But, if you would like to use this path, you must be careful.

You will need to present a business plan, and that is not something easy. The business plan must clearly define the activity of the company, including a financial projection, and having all the sections that are required. Therefore, it is something you must put time and effort to. 

Our advice is simple.

Be realistic when writing this document. Do not try to impress the government in order to get their approval. Do not say that you will create a thousand job positions if you actually won’t manage to do it. Yes, it is completely true that the institution who analyses your business plan likes it when you promote the Spanish economy. But over realistic plans don’t get approved

It is much better to be simple in that sense. If you need to say that it will only be you in the project, doing this or that activity, expecting to win X per year, much better. Usually, if you are clear and realistic, your application will get accepted. 

If you would like to get help from our business lawyers in order to successfully create a business plan that ensures your application gets accepted, do not hesitate to contact us. 


Do you have any doubts so far? Ask anything to our lawyers here and get an instant answer:



    Should I apply for the entrepreneur visa instead?


    Many non-EU citizens with the student visa who wish to start their own company or become freelancers, ask us if it would be better to apply for the entrepreneur visa instead. 

    In that sense, you can still start your business and get the residency with this permit, and there is no minimum time spent in the country. 

    Nevertheless, that is not an option we recommend in all cases.

    Why? Because when determining if the business project is good enough to be accepted for the entrepreneur visa, the Government is much more strict and selective. They just accept projects with a big potential to grow, which are really innovative and involve an important technological component. With the initial authorization as a freelance, you can open any kind of company (as long as it does not conduct an illegal activity), so you will not have that problem.

    Furthermore, there is responsibility for the project with the entrepreneur visa. If you would like to renew this permit, you must make sure that the business is performing as you detailed on the business plan during the upcoming years. If you fail to meet that goal… you will need to go back to your country as the renewal won’t be accepted. 

    But with the work permit as a self-employed, that does not happen. The situation is not that strict. 

    For example, when it comes to the renewal of this extension from student visa to work permit as an entrepreneur, they will just check that the company is active and still registered on the social security


    2. Getting a job offer as a highly qualified worker


    This second option, obtaining a permit as a highly qualified worker as a student, offers an advantage and a disadvantage.

    First, it does require that you have stayed a minimum of time in Spain on your study visa: 1 year.

    On the other hand, the main advantage is its fast-track resolution in just 20 days.

    But, also, we must understand that this option is not for everyone.

    And that is because its main requirement is to get a job offer as a highly-skilled worker.

    As you may have guessed, that is not that simple. You first need to understand what does an offer regarded as highly qualified mean and what are the requirements. 

    In order to obtain a work permit as a highly-skilled professional, mainly two conditions must be met:

    • The offer is as a manager or position regarded as technical
    • The salary you are going to earn is between 40.000 to 45.000€ or above

    For this student visa modification, you need to apply to the Unit of Large Companies and Strategic Sectors, the institution that will analyze the job offer. In this sense, there is a big risk of rejection.

    Many job positions, even though meet the salary requirement, are not considered qualified for the UGE-CE. That is why it is crucial to give a careful analysis of your application form and documents. 

    3. One-year permit extension as a student looking for a job


    Since September 2018, a new immigration law was approved. 

    This law, called in search for a job (“en búsqueda de empleo”), allows students who have been one year studying in Spain to stay for 12 additional months in order to search for a job or to start their own company

    Once they find the offer, they can automatically change it to work residency.

    Thus, this option is ideal for all those students who have finished their studies and want to modify their work permit, but have not yet found a job offer; and need extra months to do so.

    Which are the requirements and things to consider in order to apply for this permit?

    • First of all, the job position you are searching for must be highly qualified. It cannot be a regular job, it must be a technical or managerial position, with a high salary (as we briefly went over in the last section). 
    • It is a requirement that you have passed your last or previous course at your university or center. 
    • There are two main requirements you must meet. First of all, demonstrating that you possess 7.000€ (or more) in a bank account. Then, having a Spanish medical insurance contract, without copayments). 

    As we have mentioned, the residence permit for students looking for a job is also valid for those wishing to start their own company. They will have one year in order to prepare everything that is required to start the business (business plan, trademark registration, legal constitution, etc.). Bear in mind that the project must be innovative and technological in order to be accepted. 




    Caveat: Not all universities are eligible for this extension


    You must be really careful here. Because depending on the university or masters you are studying, you may not be eligible for this additional year modification. Just a list of them is accepted by the Spanish Government.

    Is your university or course on the list? 

    You can check it in this link. 


    What happens if this year finishes and I haven’t found any job?


    It is possible that as the job offer you must find has to be as a highly qualified and paying a high salary your chances of finding one are lower. 

    But you don’t need to worry about that.

    Because if the year of the extension finished and you hadn’t found any job, you can jump into the regular regime, applying for a work permit as an employee (por cuenta ajena). This is the same option we saw in the first section, but without the need to be in the country for 3 years. 


    4. Residency for internships


    Finally, there is also the option to switch from a student visa to an internship residency, and in this case, there is no minimum period of study to do so. 

    In fact, you could apply for it both in Spain as a student visa and in your home country.

    The most important requirement is to still be a student on your student visa or to have completed your course (which must be level 6 or higher) within a period of no more than 2 years.

    This would allow you to do a paid internship through an internship agreement with your university or through a contract with the company, and then modify to an employee work permit and stay working long term in the country.


    Let us manage the application procedure for you


    Whether if its with option 1, 2 or 3, transitioning from a student visa to a work permit involves doing some paperwork and a legal application. And that can be tough, especially when it comes to the new regulation created at the end of 2018, which still does not define the whole spectrum of situations. 

    Therefore, if you consider you need legal help from an expert team of immigration lawyers, do not hesitate to contact us. We are here to make your life easier. We will analyze your situation, define what would be the best past for you to follow, and manage all the documents and requirements for you. 

    Starting to work in Spain as a student has never been so easy. When should we start?


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